Putting work to one side for an hour or so and escaping into something creative and fun – how enticing does that sound, right now?
A Bedfordshire woman who originally turned a hobby into a new business has now shifted that business online to give clients across the UK a chance to leave the outside world behind them for a little while.
Yasmin Ali first bought a jewellery making kit a few years ago as something fun to do with her young children. As the years went on, the children may have lost interest, but keen crafter Yasmin continued, and found her hand-made gifts went down well with friends, then a few orders for bespoke pieces began to come in and so she founded Beadeze.
Over time, although she still loves to create her own pieces, Yasmin found that her background in training drew her to the idea of offering face-to-face classes, which were easily transferred online last year when the pandemic struck and so became available to a much wider audience.
“The classes had always been popular, but I think the way life is at the moment, people feel more than ever that they want to do something where they can focus on something other than lockdown, work or home schooling, and clear their heads for an hour or so,” said Yasmin. “If you’re working from home the tendency is to work longer hours, to keep checking your emails, and to just flop in front of the television when you’re done. Having an activity that both demands focus and concentration, but that is relaxing and satisfying, is so good for you.”
Beadeze involves making beads and other items from polymer clay, and those signing up to online classes receive a pack of clay, tools and embellishments to create the monthly project, as well as access to a one-hour ‘Clay Along’ session per month; a Facebook group where they can ask questions or share photographs of their creations; and a recorded video of the online session if they can’t attend live.
Yasmin discovered the benefits of polymer clay a few years ago when she was trying to find jewellery to match an outfit. Blending clays can achieve a perfect colour match that’s not always possible with semi-precious stones or ceramic beads. It is also easy to work with and mould into shapes that suit a particular idea or design.
Having done a variety of crafting courses and some business workshops, to give her a grounding in setting up her own company, Yasmin left behind her work in HR and training and Beadeze was born. In 2018, just as her business was taking off, Yasmin came first in the Emerging Artist category of the annual British Polymer Clay Guild Awards.
“Clay appeals to people of all ages, it feels good to work with and it can be very therapeutic,” said Yasmin. “I would say that the majority of people at my online sessions are businesswomen who are looking for a way to relax. We’ve all been through a pretty tough year and we’ve perhaps seen how important it is to switch off for a while.
“I see people start to work on their designs during the sessions and you can almost see them visibly relax and their shoulders drop as they let themselves become engrossed in what they are doing. People tell me they’re not artistic or they’re going to be useless at it, but they find they flourish. It’s quite easy to work with and to be creative, and, of course, you get support and feedback from everyone on the session, and that’s great for morale, too.
“It’s an unfortunate thing about the modern world we live in that it’s so easy to access entertainment that doesn’t really need any input. Of course, it is tempting to just put the television on or scroll through your phone, but that doesn’t always help your brain switch off.
“Concentrating on something creative and fun means that you have to leave all the stresses behind and turn your attention to something that genuinely gives you satisfaction and pleasure, and I really do think it makes a difference to your mental health and wellbeing.”
Yasmin intends to continue online courses in the future, with an eye on widening her customer base even further. Crafters pay a monthly membership fee and receive their pack of clays and accessories in the post, so that they have everything they need to hand. But Yasmin is also working on developing lists of suppliers so that those in other countries can source their own materials locally, ready for their Beadeze sessions.
“When you set up your own business, you feel like you’re leaving one bit of your life behind, but what I have found is that my experience in business, particularly the training side and how I used that with Beadeze, is combining two things I love to do,” said Yasmin. “I provide the ideas and the tools, but if someone wants to experiment and do their own thing, that’s fine and I’m there to guide them and answer questions if they need me.
“I love to make jewellery, but I also love to pass on my knowledge and skills and see other people getting so much out of it.”